I first encountered the amazing field of NLP in my early twenties. I did a search for NLP and stuttering and came across Dr Bobby Bodenhamer, who would later become my NLP trainer.

NLP is set of tools people can use to model and replicate states of success. It can also be used to model unhelpful states and develop new and empowering ones as replacements.

Underlying the set of tools is a number of ‘statements’, beliefs or assumptions that are taken as granted. These are applicable to any person, no matter what their current circumstances are.

In the NLP world, these are known as the ‘NLP Presuppositions’.

They are very powerful and in this first of a three part series of posts, I will share some of these and explain what they mean, and how you can use them to live an empowered life.

1. There is no failure, only feedback

This is the most well-known presupposition and in my opinion the most powerful. This attitude supports any activity you do in your life. By adopting it and living it, you give yourself permission to try out things, experiment and most importantly get things wrong.

Because when you get things wrong, you’re not failing. It’s just feedback you can use to change and adapt the approach you are using, in order to continue improving and developing competence and excellence.

2. Our map is not the territory; it is but a map, a symbolic representation of the territory.

This is another very famous NLP presupposition.

This presupposition is all about ‘things not being like they always seem’. For example, let’s say you and four other people go to Canada on holiday. Canada in this case, is the ‘territory’. The place you all went to is the same.

However, the experiences you would all have would be different to each other, and each of you would recollect different memories about your trips.

What this demonstrates is our ‘maps’ are never complete. We can never know everything about something. Our ‘maps’ may contain distorted information and yet other information we have deleted. Hence, we can develop the ability to challenge our ‘maps’ and change them if they are not serving us to better ones.

It also allows us to be respectful of other people’s views of the world, to create strong rapport with others and helps us in developing relationships.

3. We respond according to our map of the territory, not the territory

Reality only exists in our own mind. We respond to this ‘reality’. This reality is created by the experiences we have through our senses (our eyes, ears, feelings, taste and smell) and the way we talk to ourselves. And we have these experiences through filters of existing thoughts and beliefs we already have.

Let’s take the movie The Godfather as an example. The Godfather represents ‘territory’. You watch this movie and create a ‘map’ about it. Your ‘map’ is that the film is brilliant. However your friend also watches it. The ‘map’ he makes about it is that it is boring.

So, the next time you talk about the movie with each other, you both respond according to your own view or ‘map’ about The Godfather. You tell your friend how amazing it is. And he tells you it puts him to sleep.

This realisation is a very important one. By responding according to our ‘own maps’ of the ‘territory’, we become responsible for them. We longer need to believe or feel anyone or anything external to us, is the cause of our problems. We’re not responding to ‘what is out there’. We’re responding to our ‘maps’ of what is out there and these can be changed. We have the capacity to do this.

4. The meaning of communication is the response I get

Ever had a conversation with a person and the other person just wasn’t getting you?

I know I have.

Isn’t it frustrating? You tell yourself “I’ve explained my point of view and she still doesn’t get it. What is wrong with this person?”

This attitude is reversed right around when you appreciate and adopt the presupposition that the meaning of communication is the response I get.

If another person doesn’t understand you, or you’re not getting the response you want, rather than blaming the other person, you just change the way you are communicating. This might involve using a different tonality, or certain words or a facial expression, or most importantly, really appreciating the other person’s view of the world before sharing you own.

You become responsible for the way you communicate.

5. The element in any system with the most flexibility will exercise the greatest influence

A way of looking at this presupposition is a group of people, which represents the system. The system is made up of a number of elements. One of these is you.

Let’s say your company is being bought out by a bigger company. The means line management structures will change, some people may have to change their roles in the company and others may lose their jobs.

Most of those whose roles will change demonstrate massive resistance. Your role is also going to change. However, rather than getting down about it and creating inner turmoil, you see the opportunity in the role, as you have the flexibility to adapt and change, as the company itself is changing. While others only experience resentment, you experience a sense of being able to progress in the company.

6. People are not broken; they work perfectly well

I love this one.

What it means is, you may be experiencing a certain problem in your personal or professional life. A loved one you know may also be experiencing a problematic issue.

However, there isn’t anything majorly wrong with you or your loved one. All you’re doing is running ‘unhelpful maps’ in your mind really well.

For instance, if you are a person who stutters and just the thought of giving a presentation makes you get anxious and fearful, then what this means is, you’ve just learnt to create anxiety in this particular context in an expert way!

And if you’ve learnt to create anxiety in the context of presentations really well, then you can learn to create another more resourceful response.

How you can use these NLP Presuppositions to help you

So they you have it. I have explained some of the key NLP presuppositions in this first in a three part series of blog posts on this area.

I hope you can see the true power in them.

In order to help you internalise them, contemplate on them and consider how you can apply them to aspects of your life. Repeat each of them to yourself 10 times a day. Use them as daily affirmations, until you really begin to see the truth in them and believe in them for yourselves.

NLP ebooks

If you would like to learn more about NLP, two of my ebooks, Presentation Confidence – Stand Up and Be Heard and Job Interview Confidence – Replacing Anxiety with Self-Belief are available from Amazon.com.

Photo Credit: Cantabrigensis

Editor’s Note: This article was first published on hitenvyas.com in November 2012.